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modern locomotives
depth perception
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Railroad Crossing Accidents
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Railroad Crossing Accidents

Railroad grade crossing accidents are something that nobody likes to think of, but when they do occur the individual that loses is usually the occupant of the lighter automobile. An automobile or truck cannot possibly withstand the impact of a 416,000 pound locomotive (plus the one, two or three locomotives usually running behind it) as well as the railroad cars that make up the rest of the train.

The railroads have programs in place, called Operation Lifesaver, to alert the public of the dangers of trying to beat a train by cutting around gates or ignoring signals at railroad grade crossings. The problems begin when people are in a hurry and make the mistake of trying to enter the crossing when little or no time is left for the train to avoid the accident.

Modern locomotives do have emergency braking systems, but with the tons of weight behind the locomotives, and an entire train usually consisting of 100 cars or more, it takes a least a mile to stop it. This also compounds the problem, because if the occupants of the vehicle survived the impact, they probably will also be pushed down the track for that entire mile exposing them to further injury or death.

Some of the latest trends for railroads are to remove grade crossings all together. Overpasses or underpasses can be constructed to eliminate the passenger vehicle-locomotive interaction at railroad crossings. Other options have been to totally remove the crossing if there are others nearby or there is another redundant crossing in the area.

There is a general rule taught about the use of grade crossings, which could be a potential lifesaver, it is always recommended to wait at a grade crossing if you can see the “light of the train”. Remember, if you can see the head light, the train is potentially close enough to have a collision if you are trying to cross in front of it. The problem is depth perception and the speed of the train. If the train is going 80 mph and the observer looks down the track, the train will look much further away. It is kind of a trick being played on your eyes. Since the train is coming straight at you there is no way to judge distance or speed, there is no reference point, so it appears like there is plenty of time.

There have been two wrecks in the shop in the last month and I know in both incidents there were fatalities in the passenger vehicles. Unfortunately there will not be another day for them and other lives will go on remembering them. I am not sure either how the crews of the trains are affected or if they are even able to think or talk about it. I have never found a crew member that has gone through a crossing accident, but I am sure someday I will.


Street Talk

How true, James! People should show more care for their safety !

Reply
  about 7 years ago

Yes, people tend to ignore safety at times.

Reply
  about 7 years ago

Hey James I salute you for your article which to me is very informative

Reply
  about 7 years ago

Thank you Geoffrey, I hope the public in general can at least think about staying safe.

Reply
  about 7 years ago
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